CES 2016 Preview

The 2016 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is set to open on January 6, 2016 in Las Vegas.  As I write this Blog on Christmas day, CES is less than two weeks away.  While CES is not typically the premier trade show for new video projector introductions, it is normally the showplace for most other types of audio and video products.  This blog will focus on what types of new home theater related products and technologies we anticipate to be introduced at CES 2016.

Projectors

While most of the new home theater projectors were introduced at the IFA and CEDIA Expo trade shows, in September and October respectively, a few new models are expected to make an appearance at CES.  Optoma is a well established manufacture of affordable DLP projectors.  They didn’t exhibit at CEDIA Expo but will be at CES.  They are expected to be introducing a 4K DLP projector based on the Texas Instruments (TI) pixel shifting 4K DLP technology.  TI held private showings at CEDIA Expo of an engineering reference 4K projector back in October 2015, while saying the first actual production projectors using this technology were expected in mid-2016.  The TI news from CEDIA Expo was discussed in my earlier Blog – HERE.  TI only supplies the display and processing chips used in these projectors and leaves it up to the individual consumer electronics companies to design and produce the projectors using the TI supplied components.

Unlike the current Epson and JVC projectors that use conventional 1080p display chips along with pixel shifting to display a pseudo 4K image composed of two 2 Mpixel sub-images, the TI approach uses a display chip with 4 Mpixels (twice that of 1080p chips) then uses pixel shifting to display a second 4 Mpixel sub-image to display the full 8 Mpixels of information contained in 4K/UHD video.  The TI reference design shown at CEDIA Expo used a single DLP display chip along with a color wheel.  At CES there may very well be some other manufacturer(s) announcing 4K/UHD DLP projectors, beyond the expected announcement for Optoma, based on this IT reference configuration.  Even though they may be based on a common set of chips supplied by TI there can be significant differences in features and performance based on design decisions make by each individual projector manufacturer.

Optoma is also expected to announce a new 1080p projector using a laser light engine.

While Sony and JVC will be exhibiting at CES we only expect them to be displaying the same projectors that were introduced at CEDIA Expo back in October.  See my earlier Blogs from CEDIA Expo – HERE.

Ultra HD Blu-ray Players

Samsung already announced their first Ultra HD Blu-ray player during the IFA trade show (in Berlin, Germany) back in September 2015.  At that time Samsung was targeting an early 2016 introduction and while the price was not officially announced, indications were the pricing would be near $500.  For the CES 2016 we expect to see the official roll-out of the Ultra HD Blu-ray format.  This is expected to include both disc players from multiple manufacturers and movies from several studios (more on that in the next section of this blog).

Although the CES 2016 trade show itself doesn’t open until Wednesday, Jan. 6th, several manufacturers are holding press events earlier on Jan. 4th and 5th.  Some of the specific press events that I will be watching for early Ultra HD Blu-ray news are:  Samsung, Sony, Panasonic and LG – all with press events on Tues., Jan. 5th.   However, be aware that CES covers just about everything electronics and these companies make everything from kitchen appliances, to smart phones, cameras, etc. and as a result Ultra HD Blu-ray may be given little, or even no, mention in the press events.  In that case the real news may have to wait until the trade show opens the following day.

Based on what we do know so far, my best “informed guess” is the first Ultra HD players will be available for purchase in the 3rd or 4th week of Feb. 2016 with prices starting at just under $500.  I would expect at least two manufacturers to have players available in that timeframe.

4K/UHD Movies

A number of the consumer electronics manufacturers joined forces with several of the major Hollywood movie studio to form the “UHD Alliance.”   This was announced a year ago at CES 2015.  For CES 2016 the UHD Alliance is prepared to announce details of their “specifications for 4K Ultra HD displays, content and distribution”.  The UHD Alliance has scheduled a press event for Tuesday, Jan. 4th. to provide the details.

The announced presenters at the UHD Alliance press event are from Disney, Dreamworks, Sony Pictures, Fox Home Entertainment, Universal Studios and Warner Brothers.  I expect the press event discussions will cover the UHD technical details for such things a video resolution, support for High Dynamic Range and wide color gamut, and recommendations for immersive audio.  However, since the speakers are from the movie studios, I would expect to hear some information on their intentions for movie releases on Ultra HD Blu-ray discs as well as via steaming video services.  Note that both Fox and Sony have each previously provided information on a handful of their initial movie titles to be released on Ultra HD Blu-discs, but I expect the list of announced initial movies releases, from all studios in the UHD Alliance, to be substantially expanded by new announcements at CES 2016, either at the UHD Alliance press event or subsequently during the trade show.

Those of you that were early adopters of HD Blu-ray discs, back in 2006/2007, may recall that certain of the disc player manufacturers had made exclusive deals with specific movie studios to offer free movie discs along with a purchase of their Blu-ray players.  In some cases this was the only way to obtain the disc for that specific movie title(s) until the exclusive agreement expired, up to a year later.  Hopefully that will not be the case with the Ultra HD Blu-ray rollout.

A/V Receivers

During 2015 just about all of the mainstream Audio/Video Receiver (AVR) manufacturers are offering models supporting HDMI 2.0 inputs/output with support for HDCP 2.2 (this is required for supporting UHD video from many current and future sources).  However, some of these manufactures did not implement the full bandwidth version of HDMI 2.0 (i.e., supporting 18 Gbps data rate) for all of their AVR models, even including some otherwise high-end models.  Also the High Dynamic Range (HDR) feature has emerged as a major feature for UHD video releases and for higher end UHD TVs (especially those being introduced for 2016) and AVRs will need to support the HDMI HDR extensions defined by the HDMI 2.0a standard.  A few AVR manufactures, such as Denon and Marantz, have already included HDMI 2.0a support in their most recent AVRs while certain other manufacturers are expected to announced new or upgraded AVR models at CES that will support the full bandwidth HDMI 2.0a inputs/output.

Many mid-to-upper range AVRs available in 2015 support Dolby ATMOS immersive surround sound and even more models are expected to be announced for 2016 availability.  The competing DTS-X format has faced some delays and a number of AVR manufactures may announced plans/schedule for firmware updates to their 2015 AVRs to enable DTS-X as well as plans for new 2016 AVR with DTS-X support.

Check back in January for information on what is officially announced at CES 2016

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